10 Things You Should Know Before You Visit Houston

Photo: Katie Haugland

As one of America’s most misunderstood cities, there are a lot of aspects of Houston visitors (and even some locals) may not be privy to. We hope to change that.

Naturally, the City of Houston gained a wealth of national attention leading up to and during the 51st Annual Super Bowl. Just this year, Forbes Travel Guide’s dubbed it one of the “12 Top Destinations Of 2017.” And we couldn’t agree more. Here are just a few reasons why.

10 things You Should Know Before You Visit Houston

  1. Forget the “ugly” rumors, Houston’s metro has plenty of green – Houston was named one of the “20 Greenest Cities in America” by Travel + Leisure. For starters, it plays home to Discovery Green, which T+L also named one of “America’s Coolest City Parks” thanks in part to it hosting a “paradise of lawns, a man-made lake, and cool features like 14-foot-high arcing water jets.” Then there’s Hermann Park, host to the Houston Zoo and the Japanese and McGovern Centennial Gardens; it’s considered a crown jewel of Houston, even being named of one of “America’s six great public spaces” by the American Planning Association. And don’t miss Buffalo Bayou Park, one of the country’s coolest urban parks that offers 160 acres of beautiful scenery and skyline views, plus these five awesome things to do.
  2. Houston is the diverse future of America – Did you know Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the nation? And that over 145 different languages are spoken here (the third largest number behind New York and L.A.)? Well, now you do. In the article “America: This Is Your Future,” Politico offers up Houston as one of the game-changing states, stating that ”with 6.5 million residents, it is the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan region; a sprawling, flat, dry metropolis whose ethnic diversity reflects what America will most likely look like in 2050 and beyond.”
  3. That diversity means a feast for all five of your senses  It should surprise no one that Houston’s food scene is a reflection of its beautiful, culturally-diverse population. Mutt City dining means you can get everything from Vietnamese-spiced crawfish to a Pakistani take on Southern fried chicken.
  4. It’s a great spot for “all the single ladies” – Calling all the singles to the dance floor! Looking at factors like the number of unmarried men per 100 unmarried women and the cost of an inexpensive date, Nerd Wallet named it “one of the best cities for unattached single women to find love, or at least to get a date,” according to the Chron. Pretty fitting, given it’s the hometown of Beyoncé.
  5. There’s a reason it’s called Space City – About 25 miles from Downtown, you’ll find Johnson Space Center, the world leader in human space flight operations, home to our nation’s astronauts and the site of Mission Control. You’ll also find Space Center Houston, the official visitor center where you can explore it all.
  6. The way to shop is local – At the turn of 2016, Yelp named Houston one of the “Top 20 Cities for Local Holiday Shopping.” Some of the top spots locals love to hit up include Manready Mercantile, Biscuit Home, Hello Lucky, Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, and Space Montrose.
  7. Houston’s Medical Center is the world’s largest – Not that we want you to utilize it while you’re visiting, but with 21 renowned hospitals, eight academic and research institutions, four medical schools, seven nursing programs, and a combined total of over 50 medicine-related organizations (all not-for-profit), Houston’s Texas Medical Center is largest healthcare complex in the entire world. And that’s something to be proud of.
  8. The Museum District is world-class – The city also plays home to one of the largest museum districts in the country, with 20 museums galleries, and cultural and community centers,  all within four walkable zones. Don’t miss The Children’s Museum of Houston, the highest-attended youth museum in the country; Rothko Chapel, one of National Geographic’s “Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations;” and these five neighborhood must dos.
  9. Sure, locals love their cars, but you don’t need one to get around – Houston’s rail system takes riders from north of Downtown, through the Medical Center and Museum District, and all the way to NRG Park. There’s also plenty of bus service routes, taxis, and ride-sharing opportunities, and the ability to hike and bike. The City of Houston boasts an over 300-mile interconnected bikeway networks, spanning across 500 square miles, and over 128 miles of hike and bike trails. Rent a bicycle or try the bike-sharing program B-Cycle to explore the town.
  10. Houston is just plain cool – Taking into account factors like cultural composition, amount of green space, number of restaurants and bars per capita (with a focus on local eateries), and median age, Forbes named Houston number one in its list of “America’s Coolest Cities” a few years back. Looks like you’ll have to come here to see why.